Charles Barkley believes Carmelo Anthony would thrive playing for Tom Thibodeau.
"I think [Anthony] has got some flaws in his game on the defensive end and rebounding, but if you put him with [Joakim] Noah -- Noah's my favorite player -- I think [coach Tom Thibodeau] would make him play defense," Barkley said Monday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN Chicago 1000. "I also think if the Bulls are going to be relevant in the next few years that might be something they can do. Carmelo is the best scorer in the NBA. I give him a little advantage over [Kevin] Durant because Durant doesn't post up as much as I think he should.
"But if the Bulls are going to be relevant the next few years, that might be a good pickup."
Anthony can opt out of the final year of his contract with the Knicks to become a free agent on July 1. A Yahoo! Sports report over the weekend quoted a source saying the Bulls are "much more in play for him" than the Los Angeles Lakers.
How would Anthony, perhaps the game's best scorer, fit into Thibodeau's defense-first system?
"I think Coach Thibs would be great for Carmelo," Barkley said. "I think he would make Carmelo a better player, more [than] one-dimensional because I think the Bulls play as hard as any team in the NBA. Thibs is great defensively. I think Thibs would do wonders for Carmelo."
If Anthony re-ups with the Knicks, he could ink a five-year contract worth $129,135,806. If he signs with another team, the maximum he can earn is $95,897,372 over four years, according to calculations by ESPN salary-cap expert Larry Coon. The Bulls would have to significantly overhaul their roster to pair Anthony with Derrick Rose, who is already signed to a max contract.
Barkley said he believes the perception that the Bulls are cheap is accurate, although he only cited their dealings with Thibodeau on the coach's extension as evidence.
"I do think they are cheap like the way they treated Coach Thibs a couple years ago," Barkley said. "The guy is one of the best coaches in the NBA and they make him wait. It was like pulling teeth getting a contract. I really don't have any problem with anything else they did. I have no problem with the [Luol] Deng trade because they are not going to sign him for big money going forward. He's an older player. I thought that was a great trade for the Bulls.
"I think they are in a very awkward situation. If they don't do something dramatic like bring in a Carmelo they are going to be irrelevant for the next few years."
Anthony aside, Barkley said the Bulls' future all comes down to Rose's surgically repaired knees.
"They were a legit contender before Derrick Rose started getting hurt. They were in the Eastern Conference finals a couple of years ago. They were right there," Barkley said. "The whole thing now is Derrick Rose's knees. I'm not sure what's going to happen with that situation. It's going to be wait and see the next couple of years.
"Derrick is such a great kid, but we don't have any idea how he is going to come back. If you're going to be relevant, Melo might be the way to go because there really isn't any other free agent out there right now who you would say, 'If we bring in this guy our team is going to be a lot better.'"